By all rights, today I should be writing about stage 2 of the Breck Epic. And I was really excited to write about it, too. Because it was immediately after stage 2 that The Hammer took this picture of me:
And I was not hamming it up for this photo, either. That look — the “I have been through hell” look — is absolutely genuine.
But I’m not going to get to talk about it ’til Monday (because tomorrow is Free Verse Friday), nor am I going to get to post the even better equivalent picture I have of The Hammer ’til then. Which is unfortunate for you, because I’m looking at it right now for the millionth time and it is still cracking me up.
And now that I think about it, I might not get to it ’til Tuesday, because Monday I’ll want to talk about Ed Perrey’s awesome new Ibis Mojo and the weekend we will have had mountain biking my local trails.
Instead, today I’m going to subject you to my in-progress reasoning on USADA’s Reasoned Decision on Lance Armstrong.
I apologize in advance.
You Should Know Me By Now
I’ve been writing this blog longer than some of you have been alive (assuming some of you are younger than eight years old). Which means that — thanks to the twin miracles of a big ol’ archive and a search box in the top-right corner of my blog — if you take the time to look, you can see that this is not the first time I have been witness to the drama of a top American cyclist being implicated in a doping scandal.
You might find it instructive to go back and read what I said about Tyler 1.0. Or Floyd 1.0. (For what it’s worth, I believe Tyler is currently in version 3.0, while Floyd is still having a rough time getting 2.0 into beta).
Just in case you couldn’t be bothered — and I wouldn’t blame you, though my feelings might be a little bit hurt — to read those two posts (and, for bonus credit, the posts that came before), there’s something similar about them.
I presume innocence until proven guilty.
This isn’t just me parroting the US justice system. This is a personal philosophy, and I work hard to apply it in every aspect of my life. I even extend it, and presume good intentions until bad intentions are proven (not just suspected).
It’s a philosophy that works for me. I like it, and I’m keeping it.
The thing is, if you know me at all (i.e., read my blog, as opposed to just parachuting in to chide me from time to time for hiding my head in the sand), you had to know that I would apply this philosophy to Lance Armstrong as well.
Reports from single-source “reporters” who clearly have an axe to grind? Pfff. Allegations? Well, they’re called “allegations” for a reason.
But when Armstrong didn’t contest those allegations, thereby hastening judgment and — now — the reasoning behind that judgment, that’s a finish line that’s been crossed.
To me, the (uncontested, nor seriously disputed) evidence is compelling. In the absence of any compelling counterargument, the threshold of proof has been crossed, and I can’t presume innocence.
I hate writing “Lance doped,” but to continue presuming innocence now flies in the face of my personal philosophy every bit as much as presuming guilt prematurely does.
So. What does this mean to me?
I’ll start with the easy one first. Based on what I’ve read, it’s impossible to reassign who won what, or which records were set during a big swath of time for pro cycling. Should Lance keep his seven yellow jerseys?
Should George Hincapie be allowed to claim he has raced in more Tours than anyone else?
I dunno (although USADA seems to have decided he should, since it backdated suspensions to begin after his retirement).
Should anyone get to claim anything from that period, seeing as how it’s vastly improbable that everyone who was doping during that period has confessed?
But I’m being facetious when I say, “I dunno;” I really mean, “It doesn’t matter.” Because no matter what is done officially, some people will regard that change (or lack thereof) as illegitimate.
And frankly, I don’t care very much about this part. It’s too messy to argue. It’s impossible to resolve.
But how about the suspensions and bans (not just for Armstrong, but for the numerous people named as witnesses)? Are they too harsh? Too weak? That’s hard to say, because it requires you to assess what is a fair punishment for varying amounts of cheating. No matter the conclusion, it never sits right.
The part of Lance’s life that I really care about, however, remains unaffected by USADA’s reasoned decision: LiveStrong.
Lance — supported by an incredible cast of talented and hard-working people — created a foundation that does an immense amount of good. I’ve experienced that good firsthand. So did Susan. So have my twins. So have a large number of people I’ve referred to LiveStrong, to get the support and help they need.
Lance cares more deeply about the fight against cancer than people know. Lance has worked — and continues to work — incredibly hard at making LiveStrong fulfill its mission. It’s what drives him.
And he’s gone out of his way to help me in my efforts to support LiveStrong. He’s been a friend to me and my family in hard times, and I value that friendship.
I expect that LiveStrong will be hit hard by this decision, but that doesn’t even remotely affect my intention to continue supporting it. The fact is, the closer-up I see LiveStrong, the better it looks.
Do Something Good, Redux
Of course, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on that, and honestly I’m not particularly interested in battling it out with anyone.
So how about this:
If you can’t / don’t / won’t support LiveStrong, how about supporting Young Survival Coalition?
Yep, you don’t get off the “help the fight against cancer” hook so easily as that. In fact, today is the last day in a contest where you can win a Giant TCR Advanced SL, set up with a Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 group. Or a GoPro camera. Or Dura-Ace pedals. Or other things. So click here for details, and then click here to donate.
Whether you align yourself with LiveStrong, YSC, World Bicycle Relief, or anything else (or everything else) is up to you.
What I really care about is that you do something good.
That will never change.